Travelra’s Blog

White tiger at the Fantasy show

White tiger at the Fantasy show

Fantasy elephant

Fantasy elephant

Miserable, wet, gloomy; three words that describe Phuket perfectly at the moment. It had to be the worst season in Phuket while we were visiting. For the first three days we stayed inside our hotel room and did basically nothing. Every time you went to walk outside it would pour down with rain. It was absolutely terrible. Except my sisters friend Renae and her parents were coming to Phuket to see us on the 27th of September.

While we were in Phuket we went to quite a few shows. We went to the cobra show, the monkey show, Fantasy and a lot more. But my favourite thing we did in Phuket was the White Water rafting and the elephant riding tour. There were so many things to do in Phuket, especially shopping. We all bought so much clothes that it wasn’t funny. The day before we left to Hong Kong airport we went cable water skiing. All of our arms really hurt from the rope swinging us around the corner.

This trip has been amazing but it had to come to an end; that end was this morning. We flew out from Phuket airport to Hong Kong airport. We had a connecting flight and stayed at Hong Kong airport for 5 hours. Our flight to Perth didn’t leave till 11:30pm. There wasn’t much to do around the airport. But time flew by very quickly; I think it was because I was super excited. It was a long flight back but we finally arrived at Perth airport. We went through customs and our friend already bought our car to the airport for us. On the way back home I thought about all the incredible places we’d been to but like they say… there’s no place like home.

Han Oi

In Han Oi there was a heap of traffic everywhere you go. There were so much tooting horns and people yelling out their windows. We thought it was fairly funny until they started to yell at us in Vietnamese. Our taxi driver took us to from the border of Vietnam to our hotel called Holidays hotel in central Han Oi. The people in Han Oi were very polite and friendly. All the young kids would follow us around saying hello, hello. We would say hello back and they would have a huge smile on their face.

When we stopped in the markets the teenage girls touched our hair and skin. Everyone seemed very fascinated and amazed when we just wandered past them. We thought they would have seen many tourists with blonde hair but they weren’t interested in anyone else but my sister and I. All through the markets were fake Gucci, Dolce & Gabana, Calvin Clein and so on. We bought quite a bit of clothing; mostly knee length pants because a lot of the temples and traditional places we were going to you needed to wear knee length pants and cover your shoulders. Which I thought was fine.

We had three days in Han Oi until we left for Halong Bay. However we did manage to fit in Ho Chi Minh’s Body and Museum, we saw the body B52 plane that crash landed in the Vietnam War and the water puppets. Also we rode on Cyclos for 2 hours around a bit of Han Oi.

The second night we went to the Water Puppets and markets. The Water Puppets were a little show that a lot of tourists went to. It was a traditional show with a band playing Chinese instruments and an extremely small water filled stage. There were 5 people behind a curtain using wooden poles to move the wooden puppets of people, animals, dragons and plants on the ends of the poles. The show went for about 1 hour. After we’d finished watching the water puppets we left back to the hotel because tomorrow we were catching a mini bus to Halong Bay.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay is made up of over 600 islands. Each area had a specific name and each island belonged to one of those names; example, Cat Ba Island is made up of over 300 small islands. We stayed close by to Halong Bay City. Our island was called Tuan Chau. Tuan Chau Island had a massive resort, hotel and pool. The view was impressive; there were many palm trees, it was beach front and we could see lots of Halong Bay’s Islands.

We had the whole pool, resort, beach and staff all to ourselves because luckily enough it wasn’t holiday season. Next to Tuan Chau resort was a water amusement park with a dolphin, seal, beluga show, a circus, a crocodile show and a few pools. But we didn’t go to the shows that day because we arrived fairly late and swam in pools.

The dolphin show was a definite to do. But we also got to see seals before the dolphins came out. The seals would follow their trainer around and do as they were told. We got to watch the seals run, play, break dance, eat, swim and spin rings on their noses. My favourite was the break dancing; the smaller seal would do handstands while the larger seals would spin on one fin. I thought it was awesome.

My sister absolutely loves dolphins ever since she swam with them at Quins Beach. She was so hoping she’d get picked out from the crowd to swim with the dolphins. But we thought the show was rigged. The hosts chose a young girl from the crowd and once she had got to the bottom of the ramp, the hosts told her to go back to her seat and they chose a different girl. I felt so bad for her because I would have loved to swim with the dolphins too.

The show had finished and we’d had a great time. The pool and beach was calling our names. When we got back the ground was boiling so we just jumped in the pool. Later on we took a water ferry to Cat Ba Island; except we didn’t end up getting into the city…

Every time one of the ferry’s come in there’s a bus waiting to drop everyone off at Cat Ba city. But we didn’t know that and the bus went without us. So we hoped back on the ferry and left to Tuan Chau. The next day we were heading back to Han Oi to catch the train to Hue.

Hue

For another experience we took the soft seats on the train. That train trip was great because there was barley anyone in our carriage. Also you could recline the seats back so you could sleep easily. We already had a hotel in Hue booked and they were coming to pick us up from Hue train station. It was about a 10 minute drive to Holiday Hotel Hue. The Holiday Hotel in Han Oi owned the same one in Hue.

When we arrived at the hotel we dropped off all our gear into the rooms, had showers and went out for a walk. While we were walking we found an Aussie backpackers hostel and restaurant. We ate dinner there around 6pm. We stayed there for quite a long time because we were watching Collingwood and Hawthorn play on the T.V. A lot of Australians were sitting at the bar and watching it to.

On the second day we were in Hue we did the DMZ tour. The DMZ stands for de militarized zone. When the Vietnam War started the Americans made a long line through the middle of South and North Vietnam to say that there was to be no War between these lines. There were a few people on our tour coming with us. We saw a lot of American bases, aeroplanes, helicopters and bombs. Also driving through the DMZ we went through little towns with people living in huts and living off their own crops.

The next adventure we were having was bussing it to Hoi An. After a very long day at the DMZ we were all so tired; when we got back to Holiday Hotel we went to the Aussie backpacker’s one last for dinner. I went to sleep straight away because I knew the bus trip was going to be about a 3 hour journey.

Hoi An

Arriving in Hoi An wasn’t all that pleasant. The streets were terribly dirty, there was rubbish everywhere and the worst part was that there was a lot of tourists coming in to see the beautiful Hoi An but it wasn’t very beautiful. The only thing that was amazing was the beach; extremely tropical, alluring water and lots of little tiki bars across the whole beach line.

Our hotel was only 3 km to the beach so we hired some bikes for the day and rode around town and then down to the beach. We swam in the water for ages then sat on some of the deck chairs and ate lunch. While we were in the water and mum was sitting down and watching the bags she met 3 young girls from England travelling South East Asia. Their names were Zoe, Chelsea and Anna. We were talking for a while with them before we left we asked if they wanted to come out to dinner with us.

We all ended up having a lovely dinner by the river. Everything was Vietnamese food; I had fried rice with chicken. So far in China and Vietnam we had to eat with chopsticks. I use to never be able to eat with chopsticks but it had been one month of only using chopsticks and I got the hang of it finally. Everyone had a ball but we were leaving the next morning so we had to go back and get some rest.

Nah Trang

The reason we were going to Nah Trang was because of Vin Pearl Amusement Park. Vin Pearl is an island with a beautiful resort and famous water park. To get to the Vin Pearl you either crossed by boat or went on the longest and highest cable car in Asia. On the 62 metre high cable car you could see the whole of Nah Trang. It was a long way down but the view was terrific.

When we arrived at the cable car stopping station on Vin Pearl Island we hoped off and had a walk around the Amusement Park. There were rollercoaster’s, thrill rides, a circus, free arcade games and plenty more to come. But that was only the Amusement Park; that day was extremely hot so we all wanted to go to the water park.

After we sat down and put our bags down we went on the water rides. The whole park was very spread out; they would have only a few slides together and then all the rest were elsewhere. Some of the water slides we didn’t go on because they weren’t open to ride on. My favourite was the Tsunami; a big blue water ride meant for 2 people.

Saigon

There were heaps of things to do in Saigon like tours, museums and visit the city. We only had three days in Saigon so we could only do a few things. Plus the first day was a lazy day because we had just come of the bus from Nah Trang early in the morning. The whole ride from Nah Trang to Saigon was very bumpy so we dinting get much sleep. Once we’d got all of our things into our hotel rooms we all had a sleep for about 4 hours. Mum and Dad went out to go and book a tour to the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong Delta was a humongous river flowing through out many countries. On the tour we took a bus to a few factories along the Mekong Delta, we saw the floating markets and slept at a home stay house. At the home stay you slept in a little hut with one double bed. For dinner we had fresh fish from the Mekong, rice, lettuce, bread rolls, spring rolls and rice paper to wrap everything together. It was all very delicious but after a very exhausting day I went to sleep fairly early. Lots of the adults stayed up and drank rice wine; a foul wine that no one likes to drink even the Vietnamese people.

On the last day of being in Saigon we had a look around the city. We went to the Ben Thang markets, the war remnants museum and we also found a Gloria Jean’s Coffee shop. After 6 months of not having Gloria Jean’s it was very tempting to have one. We only had 12 more days left until we went back to Australia. The 12 days we had left were in Phuket.

Beijing

Our flight from London Heathrow to China Beijing was a 10 hour flight. We were lucky that we had no delays or changing planes along the way. When we arrived there lots of the Chinese people looked at my sister and I like we were aliens because of our hair. Everyone in China had black or dark brown hair, unless they died it blonde. Getting out of the airport and to our hotel took a bit of time. They could barley understand what we were saying, even if we said it slowly. But we understood that the Chinese people had their own language and couldn’t understand us.

Finally we got through to them and they took us to our booked hotel. Our hotel was called Warick International Apartments. Fortunately it wasn’t too far out from the sightseeing places. The time was only 8am so we all had a sleep then went out for a walk. We went to Long Tan Park. Long Tan Park was a large grassy park with lots of visitors sightseeing or just wanting a nice walk. There were loads of people dancing around in a specific spot for a specific reason. It was the 60th Anniversary for Long Tan Park. We watched them dance for a while then left back to the hotel and relax because the next 5 days we were going to the Temple of Heaven, Pearl Markets, Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, the Birds Nest and the Water Cube, Tien en nam Square and the Forbidden City.

Temple of Heaven- the Temple of Heaven were lots of beautiful Chinese buildings built for ceremonies of praying to Heaven for good harvesting or something special to a person. We strolled around this lovely area then left to finish the day at Pearl Markets.

Pearl Markets- A crazy place we called it. Every Chinese person in the Pearl Markets hassled you to buy there gadgets, clothes, jewellery, shoes, bags and many more things. The only thing that they could say was do you want to buy, big sale, cheap and come here. It was very funny because all of the ladies pulled my dad to their market and dressed him up in bags and accessories.

Great Wall of China- It blew my mind away. We took a cable car up to the top of the Wall. We went to the Minataya part. The view was amazing. There were masses of mountains as far as the eye could see. We walked about 1.5km, when we got to the point that we were tired of walking up and down the crooked stairs we tobogganed down the humongous hill.

Ming Tombs- On the same day as the Great Wall we went to Ming Tombs. Ming Tombs is where the Emperors and Empresses of 13 dynasties out of 16 dynasties were buried when they died. It was well under ground so we had to walk a long way. Lots of money had been thrown on top of their tomb; we threw a dollar onto one of the Emperors tomb.

 Summer Palace- The Summer Palace looked very similar to the Temple of Heaven. There was a pretty lake with little boats paddling around. We walked around and saw plenty of gorgeous colourful buildings. Before we went inside there was a young girl tour guide that was studying English at her university that offered us a tour for only 80 Yuan. We took her along and she told us some history on the Summer Palace.

Birds Nest and Water Cube- Going to where the 2008 Olympics were held was very special to me. When we went to the Birds Nest we took a lot of photos and bought some souvenirs. But the best part about that day was that we actually got to swim inside the Water Cube where Olympic Champions had swum. We also got to watch the Russian Synchronise Swimmer champions do a routine while the Russian Swan Lake champions practised for the next day’s performance in the Water Cube. It was a fluke.

Tien Ne Nam Square and the Forbidden City- An 8km walk to Tien Ne Nam Square and the Forbidden City wasn’t very pleasant after a very busy week. When we got to Tien Ne Nam Square we walked around and through these enormous gateways to the Forbidden City. You had to pay a lot of money to go inside the Forbidden City so we didn’t go in; just looked from on the outside.

Xi an

From Beijing to Xi an we took the hard seats… on the 13 hour train. My eyes were sleepy and my body was tired; I could barley stay awake. That night was terrible. There was people talking throughout the whole night, lots of people bought a standing ticket for the train and they lent all over our table and chairs and last but not least the food trolley ran over my toes twice. Eventually I got a few hours sleep still in an uncomfortable position. My mum got the most sleep out of all of us.

There were heaps of things to see and do in Xiang; for example the Terra Cotta Warriors. When we arrived in Xi an a lady named Sabrina asked us if we would like a lift to our hotel or have her as our tour guide for 2 days. We said yes and then we hoped into her van and headed towards our hotel. Along the way dad, mum and Sabrina figured out what we were going to do in Xi an. They decided on doing the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Terra Cotta Museum, the Emperors Hot spring Palace and the silk factory.

First up was the Terra Cotta Museum. This was where people now a day’s try to recreate more Terra Cotta Warriors. We had a look through with Sabrina. She told us about all of the Terra Cotta Warriors and the paintings, statues and furniture that were for show in the Terra Cotta Museum. Shortly after learning a bit about the Terra Cotta Warriors we went to go see them.

Where the Terra Cotta Warriors were there were three pits. We went from pit number 3 to 2 to 1. Pit no. 3 had the most Terra Cotta Warriors found and people were still finding more when we were there. The whole of Pit no. 3 had over 6,000 statues containing the figures of strong warriors, horses, archers and officials. Out of all three pits they hold 8,000 statues which being strong warriors, horses, chariots, officials, generals, musicians, cavalry horses, standing warriors, kneeling warriors, crossbowman, kneeling crossbowman, horse leading driver, on chariot warrior, junior officer and senior officer. After the men made the warriors Emperor Qin Shi Huang the first Emperor of China killed them so they could not make the Terra Cotta Warriors ever again. The Terra Cotta Army was built to protect the tomb of Qin Shi Huang (the first Emperor of China) and the boast the Emperors power and show loyalty to him after his death.

 The Terra Cotta Warriors were found on a family’s farming land when the men were digging for their water well in 1979. It was just sheer coincidence that the found them. If the men had dug a few more inches away from the corner of pit three they wouldn’t be found at all. Pit 3 was found 1.5km east of Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. The farming men found an arm of a Terra Cotta Warrior, after three days that arm faded from colour to just plain grey clay.

Shanghai

From Xi an to Shanghai we took another train. It wasn’t as bad because we had already done a long train trip before. Our hotel was close to one of the biggest shopping streets in the world. Later in the evening we went out to have a look. There were heaps of bright lights in your eyes, people selling things on the streets and tons of shopping malls. We didn’t go inside any; we just window shopped. That night we met two young English men doing a radio station about Shanghai and they had been in Shanghai for over 3 years. They asked us what our worst smell and our favourite sound had been throughout Shanghai. We said our worst smell was the dark alley ways down the sides of the streets and our favourite sound was the car horns tooting every 5 seconds.

The couple of days we didn’t do much. We walked down towards the bund; a very English area with a massive lake and lots of sky scrapers. Underneath the lake was a walk way tunnel. You had to pay to get across so we didn’t go. Once again we took another train, this time to Guilin City.

Guilin

Guilin is a peaceful place full of many mountains, pagoda’s and rice fields. When we got off the train a bunch of tourist guides ran over to us. We picked the best English speaking person and we were off to our hotel in central Guilin. The tour guide people’s names were Mike and Julie. While we were in Guilin they took us to Yung Shou on Bamboo boats, the Rice Fields, to beautiful mountains and pagodas.

I thought the Bamboo rides were the best out of everything in Guilin. We also went to an amazing show in Yung Shou. They had 600 people performing in their show; so many acts for so many people. Each act was different but my favourite one was the lights show. There was about 400 people all dressed up in special suits that glowed brightly.

The Rice Fields were completely amazing to see. People had lived up the tops of mountains in little villages living off mainly rice, stream water and vegetables they grew. We drove to almost the top of the most important mountain. This mountain had a special name; it was called Dragon Mountain. When we walked up Dragon Mountain and we could see a small river flowing down the bottom; the view was brilliant. Many people still lived up the top of Dragon Mountain and grow foods.

Guilin had been absolutely unbelievable but we had to catch the bus to Ping Jing. Ping Jing was a town where most tourists stopped for the night before crossing the border of Vietnam and China. It was 17 km to the border from Ping Jing so we went ahead and caught a taxi to the border at night time. We crossed the border by foot because we thought it would be a better experience then just catching the golf buggy to the other side. Before crossing we had to fill out a few forms, go through metal detectors and show our passports to the Vietnamese security people. We wouldn’t have known what to do if one of us wasn’t allowed into Vietnam. It would be a disaster but we all got through fine and dandy.

Once again we were back in England. But this time we weren’t staying in Kendal, we had 5 days to drive around the South of England. The plane landed in London Luton airport. It wasn’t as big as Heathrow. Our first drive was towards Brighton. When we arrived in Brighton we parked the car and went for a long walk down the beach side. Or should I say down the rocky side.

There beach didn’t have sand. It had big pebbles all along the beach line. We all just laughed and kept walking on the pathway to the pier. At the end of Brighton pier were a few fair rides like the bucking bull, bouncy castles, a small rollercoaster and so on. We didn’t go on any; we were just walking around and looking. We’d had enough of walking around the pebbly beaches so we left to Eastbourne.

Eastbourne was a lovely town. It was full of old buildings, little food cafes but it still had a stony beach. We booked a hotel by the beach and noticed a bright yellow sign hung up on the wall. It said Eastbourne Airborne show, tomorrow from 12:30pm till 6pm. The Airborne show was going to be all the professional jet drivers give everyone a flying show. We were going to stay for about 2 hours.

3, 2, 1, the P.A speaker shouted out loudly. There were lots of jets doing fantastic tricks around our heads and way up in the sky. Some jets let parachutes out and as the people floated down more jets came around the corners. My favourite part of the show was when there were people actually sitting on top of the plane while the plane fly’s around in the sky. It was brilliant but we had to move onto London. Otherwise we wouldn’t have enough time to see the main places in London.

Our hotel in London was called Fox Apartments. When we found the right hotel it was still only 1pm so we thought that we should go out to London city for a few hours. In that few hours we saw the Big Ben, London Eye, West Minster Abbey and Bucking Ham Palace. They were all so gorgeous; except for Bucking Ham palace. I thought it would be enormous and beautiful but it was plain and boring. The only thing interesting about it was the guards standing out the front marching from one side to the other.

The next day we went to London Tower, London Bridge and Trafalgar Square. The London Tower was where the King would sentence criminals to the dungeons or he would just get his guards to kill the prisoners. Just around the London Tower was London Bridge. The London Bridge looked very old and fragile. I was a bit frightened when we walked across it; the bridge felt like it was going to brake. Everything in that particular area looked extremely breakable.

In Trafalgar Square was a big tournament. It was 2009 world champion free running contest. There were lots of people around shoving through the lines to get inside. You had to have a ticket to watch the free running so we couldn’t go in, but there was still plenty more things to do. We didn’t stay in London for much longer that day because tomorrow we were going to the shopping district. HARRODS!

Harrods wasn’t too far away from the Bucking Ham Palace. When we got there everyone was staring at us because we weren’t dressed well enough for their standards. It was all Gucci, Luis Vitton, Chanel and so on. I felt a bit out of place. Shortly after Harrods we went for a walk around part of the city. We came by what we thought was a small market area, but we were definitely wrong.

When we walked down these long stairs to the markets our eyes almost popped out of our heads. They were continuous, just little markets selling clothing, jewellery, toys, souvenirs and lots of bits and bobs. Wandering through all of the markets we found a massive neon shop. There was loud techno music playing in the background and heaps of people looking through the clothing. It was great to do that on the last day of England and I couldn’t wait to go to China the next day.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

italy3

Top of the Eiffel tower, sunset shot
Top of the Eiffel tower, sunset shot

Throughout Europe we were going to Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. We were going to go to Barcelona in Spain but for that we have needed one more week. Only having 2 weeks to do that many countries is definitely not enough time. Many people had told us along the way and before we headed off on the trip that we should do this trip for about 1 year or so. We just say that it’s all fine because it is. Were all old enough, the right ages and it’s just a great experience to see any of the world.

France

We past Belgium along the way through to Paris on the first day. We didn’t reach Paris on the first day but we were rather close. It was a very small drive to our hotel in the outer edge of Paris. The hotel rooms weren’t the best but it was just somewhere to sleep because for 2 days in Paris we were going to be walking our legs off. There were so many things we were going to see in 2 days, there was Eiffel Tower, arc de Triomphe, Le Lourve, the Royal Gardens, Notre- Dame, Palace Vendome, Versailles and a lot more than you may think.

We decided that we should go to the Eiffel Tower that night so we could see all the glittery lights on when it’s dark. When we’d finally walked to the Eiffel Tower it was almost sunset, Mum thought that we should all go up the tower and get sunset shots. It wasn’t too long of a wait in line. When we were waiting we met 2 Australian’s and 1 American, they had only met this morning when they were having breakfast at McDonald’s. It felt good to hear an Australian voice again; you never really recognize how much of an accent we’ve got.

Once we’d walked up the stairs we realized that there was an elevator. At least we knew there was one for the way down. The sunset photos were just gorgeous. The bright orange sun was shining in the background as we stood in the Eiffel Tower. We took the elevators down to the bottom after the sun had gone away. The Goldie coloured lights dazzled in my eyes. We reached the bottom floor and started to walk back under the Eiffel Tower to the train station. Just as we were about to leave the Eiffel Tower… BOOM! These twinkly little star lights came on for about 5 minutes. It was magnificent, such an experience of a life time.

We were all so tired from the walking and the climbing that we all just about fell on our beds and went to sleep when we arrived home. It was also about 12:30 in the morning so we had to get enough rest for tomorrow.

The next day was when we going out to all of the special monuments of the outer edge of Paris; away from all the posh new buildings. We were heading into the past. All of the buildings and monuments looked so old and fragile. As if you touched it, it would break up into tiny little pieces. There was so much to see in so little time. There was plenty of expensive jewellery and clothing shops around like a very famous one called the Cartier. We popped our heads inside to see the beautiful shaped jewellery, we didn’t bother about clothing. To me none of the clothing looked very nice.

We moved on to Royal Gardens and Le Lourve. When we got to the Royal Gardens Mum sat down and had a coffee while we had a slushy each, that day was really hot. After that we walked through the Gardens a bit and looked around. In front of a wide walking trail was the Le Lourve. We were not too sure what the Le Lourve was but it had a cool name so we went to check it out. We mostly just sat by the big fountain like everyone else there did. It was time to move on to the bus stop, the day had ended for us. That day was incredibly hot, tiring and amazing all at the same time.

For the next 2 days we were just driving the car about 7 hours a day. We were heading towards the south east coast of France near the border line of Italy. For the first night we stayed at a little town called Orange. Also for the second night you could say well, at least the night was fun…

The second day we drove once again but this time through some very expensive land. We drove past the beautiful Nice, Monaco and San Tropez; where lots of French famous and rich people live. I preferred San Tropez because it had huge houses on the peaks of lovely little mountains next to the turquoise blue ocean. When we were passing Nice all we saw was the ocean with way to many people sun bathing and swimming; you couldn’t even see the sand!

We arrived at Marseille not that long after San Tropez and Nice. Marseille beach was terribly crowded, just like Nice but a few less people. When we were looking around Marseille for a hotel, every last one we checked was booked out. We absolutely couldn’t believe it. But there was still a place to sleep. We were told that in France lots of people sleep on the beach; my sister thought of sleeping on the beach for an experience. Well it was an experience alright.

Lying on Marseille beach freezing stiff with only one little blanket and three towels between us wasn’t a good idea. After that night we all weren’t that happy with my sister Jayde. There were lots of party’s on in the distance; my dad stayed up most of the night to watch our things sitting next to us. Dad heard a bit more than party’s as well. He heard a big beach tractor a fair way away; he didn’t think it was going to come near us for a while. It was a rather bad thought.

All I saw was bright shining yellow lights flashing in my eyes. The tractor had come very close to us all. The crazy French driver was going to run us over without even noticing. The bucket on the end of the green tractor had gotten in the way of his vision. My Dad jumped up extremely quick grabbing all of our stuff, telling us to get up quickly and screaming at the tractor driver to stop. I reckon he was about 2 meters away from squishing us. So that day had started fairly odd and tiring. But we were all really excited to be crossing the border into Italy and going to Genova in our 4 star hotel that we had booked.

Italy

Genova was another hot spot for rich people. We saw a lot Ferraris and mum almost fainted. The Ferrari is my mum’s favourite car. There were so many mopeds around as well. Every one of them zoomed past the hire car like they were all in a race. We eventually arrived at our hotel but there was a sign on the outside saying go to Genova Grand Hotel for reception. We found a huge 5 star hotel just about 30 metres up the road. My mum asked if we could stay here for a night because our hotel we were going to stay at was being renovated. They told us were welcome to stay and that they’ll bring our suitcases up for us.

I was thrilled to be there because I’d never been in a 5 star hotel before; nor had any of my family. Jayde, Nathan and I had our own room with a big bathroom, a king single bed and a king sized bed. Mum and Dad had the room across the hall. We had been driving a long way and we were all so hungry. We went to have a little look around and got some dinner. All of us went to bed fairly early because we were so tired and we had to get up rather early in the morning to head off to Pisa and Rome.

Pisa

We were off to Rome that morning, except we had a quick detour along the way. After we had our 5 star breakfasts we headed off in the direction to Pisa.

When we arrived at the leaning tower of Pisa we parked the car and went for a little wander. There were lots of market stall’s selling souvenirs for people who came to visit the leaning tower and Cathedral of Pisa. Shortly after looking around we took some photos of us standing next to it. But we had to move on because it was already late morning and we had to be at our hotel by evening.

Rome

1st day.

Reaching our hotel finally we unpacked our suitcases into our bungalow. For 2 nights we were staying at a big R.V and bungalow park. It looked lovely from when we drove in. There was a swimming pool right next to our bungalow, a small park, bar and restaurant, near-by shops and a free breakfast buffet from 7 till 10 am.

Alost straight away Nathan, Jayde and I ran to the pool. Throughout Europe so far it had been extremely hot weather; at least it wasn’t cold and rainy. We walked through the gates of the pools; we all noticed everyone there was wearing a swimming cap. But what we didn’t think of was that it was compulsory to wear the cap. Jayde jumped in the pool and a man that worked there came over to us and told us politely we have to wear a cap. So we went back and bought five caps so we could all swim.

2nd day.

To get to Rome you had to take a train, we took the train in after breakfast. Our train line stopped right out the front of the Colosseum; exactly where we wanted to go first. We bought some tickets to go inside the Colosseum. To skip the wait in the massive line we bought fast walk tickets, were you can just walk straight through into the Colosseum with n line wait. It was very old and the walls looked utterly delicate. We got to see where they kept the bears, lions and other nasty animals to attack the prisoners. If the animal didn’t kill the prisoner, the king would choose a gladiator to finish them off. When we left there were many men dressed up in gladiator suits for photos.

Up ahead there was a long uphill trail through a park with demolished old buildings that had been found in the past. We walked on the trail for a while but then went out towards the Trevi Fountain. Along the way to Trevi Fountain we saw lots of historical roman sites and buildings that had been knocked down and found underground.

We got to the Trevi Fountain and took several photos sitting on the ledge. We even got a coin each to through over our shoulder and make a wish. There were so many people crowded over the top of you; we could barely get up the stairs after we took photos. Shortly after finally getting out of that mess we walked around and saw a few signs for a Roman Time Elevator. It was a show that was about how Rome started and was created to be what it is now a day.

Mum and Dad went to the cafe across from the time elevator while we kids went to watch the show. When we went into the theatre we were seated in special seats. The seats moved around like a simulator. Also each seat had a specific head set that spoke English, French, Italian and Dutch; we got three English head sets and then watched the film.

The movie was mostly about when buildings were built and who decided to build them. The majority of buildings built a long time ago are very famous now like the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and Saint Peters Basilica. Once the movie finished we walked outside to go and find mum and dad. We had to head off to the train station because it was getting late. The next day we were going to Vatican City.

3rd day

Today was the last day to Rome. We only had 3 days in Rome because we had to keep moving on back to Holland to drop off the hire car; two weeks in Europe isn’t much time at all. Once again but for the last time we took the train out to Rome. We were quite lucky with both of our stops because the train stopped right out the front of the Colosseum and the Vatican. That way we didn’t loose too much energy walking a fair way to get to them places.

There were heaps of people shoving a tour guide brochure in our faces but for only one we stopped. A nice lady was showing us a map of wear her tour guide company takes us and 20 other people. Dad thought it was a good idea to do a tour of Vatican City. In the time we did this tour we learnt a lot of things that we would have never known about. When the lady told the group that Vatican City was actually its own country and not too long ago it had its own currency, I thought that was amazing because it was such a small area of land.

Throughout Vatican City there are three main places to go to. We went to them three; they were Saint Peters Basilica, the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Firstly we went into Saint Peters Basilica. I thought the outside looked nice but I never knew that the inside would be incredible as it was.

Every wall, pillar and dome were covered in beautiful mosaics, there were statues in almost every corner and a gold pipe organ at the end of one of the long halls. My favourite piece of art in the Saint Peters Basilica was an amazing marble statue made by Michael Angelo of Mary holding Jesus after he was pulled down from the cross after being crucified. We learnt that every painting in Saint Peters Basilica was changed into mosaics to prevent the colours fading on the paintings.

Later on in the day we went to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum was full of very detailed paintings and statues. Many of the paintings meant a special meaning. One of the biggest paintings Michael Angelo painted meant that heaven and hell were battling, heaven was very bright colours up the top and hell was dark and gloomy colours down the bottom. The Sistine Chapel was were the head of the church go into and elect the next pope when the original pope dies. They don’t leave until the next pope is chosen.

After walking through the most incredible buildings I had ever seen we left to the train station. Once we arrived at the train station we said our goodbyes to the wonderful Rome. Being in Rome was absolutely breathtaking. The buildings, paintings even just a huge pillar looked completely out of this world. I was definitely pleased to go but we still had to drive back to Holland in only 4 days.

Venice

After a log and tiring 8 hour drive we eventually arrived in a beautiful town named Mestre; just out of Venice. Our hotel was close by to a big shopping square. Once we’d unpacked everything into our rooms we walked down towards the square and had dinner. Wandering around the square helped us stretch our legs but it was darker by the minute so we went back to the hotel room. Tomorrow was going to be a big day because we were going to Venice and Murano; I couldn’t wait.

It had always been one of my dreams to ride in a gondola but that didn’t happen. We took the water buses around bits of Venice and Murano. They were packed full of people that you could barley move a muscle. Some people fell over and others just got pushed around. Our first stop for the day was Murano; the land of glass.

In Murano we went to a glass making factory. There was a man sitting by a very hot in closed fire making a small glass vase. Shortly after the factory we walked through lots of little markets. It was pretty amazing because the only thing they were selling was glass. But we couldn’t stay in Murano to long. There was still Saint Marks Square in Venice to do.

Saint Marks Square had so many pigeons flying around your head and landing on your arms. My brother Nathan thought it was hilarious. Lots of people were selling colourful masks and souvenirs. We were going to buy a mask but it would break in our suitcases. Around the little creeks were expensive but gorgeous jewellery and clothing shops. Also there were lots of red and black gondolas paddling around through the water alley ways. Later on we just wandered around Mestre and went back to our hotel to have a good rest before we left towards Germany early in the morning.

Holland again

On our way back to Holland we had to pass Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Once again there were more beautiful mountains and we past a few big lakes. In time we reached Germany and stayed for one night. The next morning we drove about 6 hours to get back to Schellinkhout.

When we got to Ome Aries house they weren’t there. We knocked on the door a couple of times. Finally someone answered, it was Sara. Sara had only just got back from India that day. She told us that Ome Arie and Tanta Ria had gone for a bike ride with some friends and wouldn’t be back till later on. So with that we brought our suitcases up the stairs and into our room. After unloading the car we went for a nice walk along the beach then came back and had dinner. By then Ome Arie and Tanta Ria were back.

We had three days in Holland and on the second day it was Nathans birthday. Sara and Tanta Ria had made Nathan a special birthday boy’s chair. It had colourful streamers and balloons hanging off the back. No one else was allowed to sit on his chair. In the afternoon a few people came over to celebrate Nath’s birthday. There was Ester, Patrick and their two girls Madelindae (3) and Annae-Marijne. Also Judith, Julien and their baby boy Martijne came along.

Tanta Ria bought a cake and lots munchies. We all sung happy birthday to Nathan then had a special dinner. After everyone left we all went to bed. Tomorrow we were going to go to one of the biggest fairs in the whole of Holland. It was called Karames.

We went to Karames during the evening because there would be lots of bright lights and the rides would be fun in the dark. Jayde, Nathan, Sara and I went on three rides. They were all so exciting, on one of them we got shot up really high and we could see the whole city. We got home at about 9pm and dad thought we should all go go-carting. I stayed home with Tanta Ria and Ome Arie. I was so tired that I fell asleep on my bed when I was packing my suitcase for tomorrow’s flight to England.

When our plane flew over the top of Holland you could see out the window that there were lots of water canals, EVERYWHERE! I asked my mum why there were so many water canals; she told me that Holland is actually under sea level. I was quite amazed. On the way into the airport it was a very bumpy ride. The turbulence was terrible. When we landed we took our hand luggage out of the over head trays and walked into the terminals.

We had to go to baggage claim before we met my mum’s family at the entrance of Schipol. In Holland we were staying with my mum’s side of the family for 2 weeks. There was Tanta Ria, Ome Arie, Seibon and Seibon’s girlfriend Kit waiting eagerly to meet us at the entrance. As we walked up to them they were so excited to see us; especially Mum because they had only seen her when she was 4 and 10 years old.

All together we walked down stairs to the car park and got in the cars. Jayde, Nathan and I were in Seibon’s car with Seibon and Kit, while Mum and Dad went with Tanta Ria and Ome Arie. I fell asleep in the car on the way from Schipol to Schellinkhout. Schellkinkhout is where Ome Arie and Tanta Ria live but Seibon lives about 20 minutes away.

Their house was lovely; there were lots of little statues, vases and just small trinkets that made their home look gorgeous. Jayde, Nathan and I were sleeping in the attic and mum and dad were sleeping upstairs in Judith’s old room. Tanta Ria and Ome Arie have 3 girls who have grown up and had their own kids. Their names were Ester (38), Judith (34) and Sarah (28). Sara still lived in the house with her parents. When the three of us walked up the stairs to the attic we were all thinking, great were going to sleep in a dirty old attic for 2 weeks. But we were completely wrong; there were two rooms, one with 2 singles and the other with 1 single. We were definitely all happy.

We hadn’t seen anything yet though. When we saw what Tanta Ria was making for dinner our jaws simply dropped. She told us that she makes big breakfasts, lunches and dinners all the time; we hoped she wasn’t just cooking it because we were at her house. There was chicken and vegetable soup for the 1st course, then salads and fresh cut bread for the 2nd course and last but not least a delicious meat tray with sausage. It was absolutely divine. I’d never eaten like that in just a relative’s house before.

After dinner it was time for bed. All of the adults stayed up a bit longer because they wanted to know so much about my Mum and Dad. We had to get good rest for the 2 weeks we were going to have in Holland. There were plenty of things we were told that we should see and do while we were in the Netherlands. Lots of the family were going to be with us along the way so we can’t get lost through our trip through out Holland.

In Holland we saw the cheese markets, Alakmar, the black markets, Amsterdam city, Voldendam, Hoorn and heaps of little towns going to these great places. Alakmar was where the cheese markets were held and the black markets had lots of clothing, make-up, shoes and restaurants. Amsterdam City is well known for being the red light district; Mum, Dad, Ester and Patrick went to Amsterdam at night but Mum and Dad took us kids during the day.                                  

At the end of our Holland trip we had a small gathering of relatives Mum had never met, a couple she had met. There were a fair few people, some of them I had already met. I had met Ester and her family, Judith and her family, Seibon and his son Tom, Tanta Ria and Ome Arie. Sadly Sarah was in India on a tour for the Eclipse so she could not make it to the gathering, but at least we got to see her before she left. Everyone started to leave slowly but luckily we took a photo of everyone together previously. It was time to pack up because tomorrow was the day that dad went to Amsterdam and got the hire car so we could travel bits of Europe.

Maddelinde and Annae- Marijne

Maddelinde and Annae- MarijneSara, Nathan, Jayde and I KaramesKarames rideNathan and Ome Arie

Ome Arie and Tanta Ria

Ome Arie and Tanta Ria

Judith's jumping horse Nancy

Judith's jumping horse Nancy

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Family Gathering

Family Gathering

Jayde, Nathan, Sara and I at the Karames

Jayde, Nathan, Sara and I at the Karames

Karames

Karames

Nathan and Ome Arie

Nathan and Ome Arie

Sara playing her Bugle

Sara playing her Bugle

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Jayde, Sara and I

Jayde, Sara and I

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Ester and Patrick

Ester and Patrick

Monique and I

Monique and I

We’d got off the plane and grabbed our suitcases of the baggage claim carousel. A nice lady at the information centre told us how to get to the Alamo hire cars. We had to take the Alamo bus from outside the Airport to the hire car station. Once we had got all of our luggage and hand luggage off the bus we took it inside the car hire place and Dad booked us a hire car for three days. The man gave us a big map of England, the keys and told us where our car was. I guess you could say it was fairly large enough. Dad had a look at the map then gave it to Mum so we could drive 5 hours to Kendal; where Monique was staying with her grandparents.

 When we were back in Calgary, mum had previously booked a lodge just outside of Kendal. It was called Pine Lake Resort. To get there wasn’t that hard. We just had to get out of the airport and drive down the free way for a very long time. Just before we went to room we had to go to reception to get our room key. We were all so tired that night, before dinner I had a little sleep. At the reception they had a bar and cafe. Mum and Jayde walked down to the cafe and got some dinner for us all. But straight after that I was asleep.

Off to Kendal

Because I went to sleep so early, I was up very early in the morning and so was everyone else. I thought it was about 8am but it was actually 4:30am. I was very surprised! We all got out of bed and had some toast than watched a movie on the T.V. By the time the movie finished and we’d gotten dressed and ready it was already 9am. Monique’s mum Angela emailed my mum the other day and said that she will call our hotel in the morning some time. The time was 9:30am when she called us; they said that we could come around whenever we wanted to. So with that we left almost straight away into Kendal.

Now we never knew that Kendal would be so hard to get around in. The streets were packed full of people and so busy that you could barely get your car through. Also we couldn’t see the street signs because they were much lower to the ground than Australia’s. But at last we found out how to get there from a person riding his bike next to our car. When we knew how to get there dad drove off in the directions he gave us. Luckily they were correct; we got there in no time at all.

It was all so exciting when I walked through the door. Monique ran up to me and we said hello and hugged. We had so much to talk about; I wanted to know everything that had been happening back in Australia and Monique wanted to know everything about our trip so far. Just simply talking to someone I knew and different to family was fabulous because it gets a tad boring talking to the same people for 3 months straight.

We were staying at Monique’s grandparents place for two nights. I wasn’t too sure what we were going to do for them two days but I was sure that we’ll figure it out. That night wasn’t all that good though. All of the parents made us sleep in Monique’s granddads garage; it was smelly and it had spiders and slugs creeping everywhere! My sister went to sleep very fast but Monique and I were still awake because Monique was petrified of slugs. Together we thought that we should just grab all of the doonas and sleep in the kitchen. We woke Jayde up and moved everything in to the kitchen, when we did move everything we had to walk in heavy rain.

“Good Morning girls, I see you had a pretty uncomfortable sleep” Monique’s granny said waking us up. Everyone had already gotten up and had their breakfast. This morning’s breakfast was eggs toast; I definitely preferred home cooked food than aeroplane food, well… doesn’t everybody? Jayde, Monique and I overheard the parents talking about what we were going to do today. My family was going to the Lakes district while Monique, Monique’s mum Angela and Monique’s Granny Bridget were going to walk around the hills.

Monique screamed WHAT out really loud because she didn’t want us to get spilt up for the day. My mum and Angela heard so they decided that I could go with Monique for the day. Monique’s Granddad, brother Ewan and sister Imogen had gone motorbike riding early in the morning already so they weren’t coming at all. My family went off a bit earlier than we did; we left about 2 hours after them. When we were all ready to go we jumped into the car to go to the Hills. Driving through a very narrow and wonky road didn’t make any of us feel all that good but we were still fine to walk a massive hiking hill.

Once we started walking up the hill there was so many grassy fields full of sheep, goats and extremely bulky cows; the cows stared at you and looked like they wanted to run you down. To get to the other side of part of the hill you needed to cross into a paddock of 5 cows; a mum, a dad and 3 little calves. As soon as Monique’s mum and Granny set foot over the fence the bull stood up tall guarding his baby calves. Monique and I got rather scared at that moment, we didn’t want to walk through the paddock. But after about 10 minutes Monique’s mum basically just came over and dragged us around the edges of the fence because we were taking forever.

We kept walking for a fair while. All of us were very hungry for lunch so we stopped by a field of some sheep and horses. Monique and I walked over to the horses with our sandwiches and ate them by the fence. Monique asked me to take a photo of her by the fence, not realizing that one of the horses came over to her and took her sandwich right out of her had. We just stood there laughing at each other; Monique wandered over to her mum to get another sandwich. We played with the horses for a while then went back down the hill past all the sheep and goats, the family of cows, the bulky cows and all the way down to the car.

On the way back to Monique’s Granny’s house we stopped at Angela’s auntie’s place. She had a gorgeous German shepherd and she was really playful. This was the house that held the family reunion. She had a large field but a small house because it was only her living there. Outside her door were about 70 full bottles of wines and beer left from the reunion; we came here to pick some bottles up and take them back to Bridget’s.

When we got back we had a little surprise in for Jayde, Monique and I. Once again, we were going horse riding for 1 hour. Bridget took us down to the horse riding stables, the lady’s there asked us how much experience we had in the past with horses then got the correct horse for each of us. Some of the horses there we monsters, twice the size of the horses us three got. When we started I spotted that the lady had one of the biggest horses there named Bootsie. Our horses were definitely not as big as Bootsie.

On only some tracks along the way you could canter but we were trotting most of the way. Jayde’s horse was very frantic but Monique’s and my horse were okay. When we did get to canter Monique’s horse galloped; it was all fine though because she does horse riding back at home. All of the horses brought us back to the stables following each other one by one. We lined them up, slid off the saddle and took them to their right stables. Monique’s granny came is and we thanked the all of the lady’s for helping us with the horses.

Back at Monique’s granny’s house was a barbeque; a couple of Monique’s cousins were at her house for about 2 hours. Everyone was eating away the burgers and salad. After we had dinner there was desert, marshmallows on a metal stick toasted by a little outside fire cooker. All of my cooked marshmallows were very gooey but still delicious. Monique and I were very tired so both of us went to sleep in a quiet room. The next morning was when I was leaving to Holland; it was only going to be a 1 hour flight though.


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